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View Full Version : Are there any plural words that don't have a singular?


Asmodeus
08-16-2000, 11:14 PM
I can only think of one...

clothes..

are there more?

mipsman
08-16-2000, 11:23 PM
pants

BrothaTJ
08-16-2000, 11:25 PM
Start going into clothing, pants, jeans...how about trousers? Can you have A trouser? Clothes are weird, cuz then you've got underwear which has no plural.

Asmodeus
08-16-2000, 11:31 PM
Jeans and trousers are things..clothes is generic.

Teach
08-16-2000, 11:33 PM
How about groceries? Sure, you can go to a grocery store, but grocery doesn't really have a singular meaning here. They don't have just one grocery in the shop.

Asmodeus
08-16-2000, 11:40 PM
Teach...

I think groceries is a misuse of the word. Sort of a slang term.

aseymayo
08-17-2000, 12:48 AM
May I just say that "underwear which has no plural" would make a great band name?

Alphagene
08-17-2000, 12:48 AM
From A Collection of Word Oddities and Trivia (http://members.aol.com/gulfhigh2/words1.html):

ALMS is a word with no singular form. Other such words are: AGENDA, IDES, BRACES, CATTLE, CLOTHES, MARGINALIA, PANTS, PLIERS, SCISSORS, SHORTS, and TROUSERS (although there is "trouser leg")

dtilque
08-17-2000, 02:19 AM
Originally posted by Alphagene
[B]From A Collection of Word Oddities and Trivia (http://members.aol.com/gulfhigh2/words1.html):

ALMS is a word with no singular form. Other such words are: AGENDA, IDES, ...
Agenda may have been a plural in Latin, but it's most definitely a singular in English (I'll have to write Jeff about that). There's a number of words that are plural in the original language, but are either singular or a collective or mass noun (and thus used with a singular verb) in English:

bacteria
candelabra
confetti
criteria
data
graffiti
spaghetti (and other forms of pasta)
stamina
trivia

This is not a complete list. And yes, I know that some of those have singulars in English, but that doesn't change the way these are used.

psycat90
08-17-2000, 02:26 AM
Tweezers

The Ryan
08-17-2000, 02:28 AM
Originally posted by dtilque
There's a number of words that are plural in the original language, but are either singular or a collective or mass noun (and thus used with a singular verb) in English:

Yes, there are people that use singular verb forms with "data" and "criteria". That doesn't make it right.

Teach
08-17-2000, 03:51 AM
Originally posted by Asmodeus
I think groceries is a misuse of the word. Sort of a slang term.
I'm certain that groceries, meaning the goods sold by a grocer, is not a slang expression. I admit, however, that it's not a perfect example of a word that is only used in the plural.

bibliophage
08-17-2000, 05:23 AM
eaves

Phobos
08-17-2000, 08:36 AM
Originally posted by dtilque
[QUOTE]
bacteria
criteria
data


bacterium
criterion
datum

CalMeacham
08-17-2000, 09:20 AM
"pea" was not originally a word. "pease" was one of these plural words without a singular, and "pea" was "backformed" from the plural "pease". Then the plural of "pea" ecame "peas" without the final "e", and left us with "pease porridge" as a conundrum.

In the same vein, there are words with rarely used singulars, such as "dice". Ambrose Bierce had a wonderful bit about this in his "Devil's Dictionary". I quote, to the best of my recollection:

"...there is a singular form, "die", which is rarely used, because there is an admonitory proverb, "never say 'die'"."

He then provides his own poem (with a hack name as nominal author):

"A cube of cheese no bigger than a die
May bait a trap to catch a nibbling mie."

Munch
08-17-2000, 09:32 AM
doldrums

But I imagine the singular of "confetti" is "confettus". The thought of it makes me laugh. I'm picturing the Harlem Globetrotters pouring (?) a bucket of a singular confettus on some poor unsuspecting schmoe.

Shaky Jake
08-17-2000, 09:45 AM
Now I'm wondering about the difference between "plural words that have no singular form", and words are the same in both singular and plural/collective forms - "deer" comes readily to mind? Or a word like "meat", which to me has a collective...essence? One may have a piece of meat, but never "a meat".

And I hesitate to pick a nit (though I will), but "graffiti" has a singular in "graffito", although as dictionary.com (http://dictionary.com/cgi-bin/dict.pl?term=graffito)points out, When the reference is to a particular inscription (as in There was a bold graffiti on the wall), the form graffito would be etymologically correct but might strike some readers as pedantic outside an archaeological context.

and "candelabra" has "candelabrum" as the singular form.


Shaky Jake

lee
08-17-2000, 09:48 AM
debris

CalMeacham
08-17-2000, 09:48 AM
Another of those "singular and plural" words is "Mongoose". Yes, the plural of "mongoose" really is "mongoose". Look it up.

"Give me to mongooses...uhhh.. Give me two Mongeese..uhh...Give me a mongoose. And while you're at it, give me another one."

zwaldd
08-17-2000, 10:45 AM
crayons has no singular. i don't think you can have one crayon. if you find yourself with only one crayon you need to buy a new box.

Colzee
08-17-2000, 10:53 AM
What about:

Sheep or Fish

Annie-Xmas
08-17-2000, 10:56 AM
Hemmoroids. Nobody ever says "I have a hemmoroid."

Diceman
08-17-2000, 10:58 AM
[obligatory Gallagher joke]
Why do women have a pair of panties, but just one bra?
[/obligatory Gallagher joke]

lee
08-17-2000, 11:33 AM
Originally posted by zwaldd
crayons has no singular. i don't think you can have one crayon. if you find yourself with only one crayon you need to buy a new box.

What about the single crayon in the easter egg kit?

Johnny L.A.
08-17-2000, 11:38 AM
I think Isaac Asimov wrote this:

There's only one
Criterion
Folks inferior
Say, "One criteria."

zwaldd
08-17-2000, 11:58 AM
What about the single crayon in the easter egg kit?

that's consistent with the logic of easter. when you have a resurrected diety and a bunny with eggs, the next logical step is a single crayon.

Johnny L.A.
08-17-2000, 12:10 PM
(They found the body.)

Chronos
08-17-2000, 12:17 PM
Quoth Shaky Jake:
Or a word like "meat", which to me has a collective...essence? One may have a piece of meat, but never "a meat".The term for such words is "substantive noun", because they refer to substances. Other examples include metal, water, wood, dirt, and plastic. Words that can go either way include stone and rock (you can say "I have a rock", or "I have a lot of rock", and either could be correct).

Collective nouns are something else entirely. They're usually singular in form, but plural in meaning, such as "flock" or "herd". Some language gurus are now saying that it's acceptable to use plural forms with collectives, such as "The flock of geese are flying south", but personally, that just grates on my nerves-- What if you want to refer to two flocks?

Dolores Reborn
08-17-2000, 01:49 PM
tongs and eyeglasses

matt_mcl
08-17-2000, 02:21 PM
Dregs, and their synonym, lees.

Saltire
08-17-2000, 02:21 PM
Martini, maybe.

I remember a Brittish comedy-variety show (though I don't remember the show's name) skit done in ancient Rome. A guy goes up to the bar and asks for a martinus. The bartender says, "Don't you mean a 'martini'?" The first guy yells, "If I'd wanted a double, I'd have asked for it!"

Gotta love Latin jokes.

08-17-2000, 02:37 PM
I've always called one of a set of crayons "a crayon". I am certain that is proper usage. Incidentally it's French for "pencil".

A house has eaves, but one side of a house has an eave.

zwaldd
08-17-2000, 03:41 PM
I've always called one of a set of crayons "a crayon". I am certain that is proper usage.
of course. my original post was a joke, but upon re-reading it, i don't get it.

bread, then. that's my serious contribution to the op.

Munch
08-17-2000, 04:43 PM
Originally posted by E d'Mann
I've always called one of a set of crayons "a crayon". I am certain that is proper usage. Incidentally it's French for "pencil".

A house has eaves, but one side of a house has an eave.

Whoosh.

Welcome to the board, ed.

dtilque
08-17-2000, 05:28 PM
Originally posted by Phobos
Originally posted by dtilque
bacteria
criteria
data

bacterium
criterion
datum
Originally posted by Shaky Jake
And I hesitate to pick a nit (though I will), but "graffiti" has a singular in "graffito", ...

and "candelabra" has "candelabrum" as the singular form.

Yes, yes, and I also said

And yes, I know that some of those have singulars in English, but that doesn't change the way these are used.

In the case of data, though, while it has an English singular, it's so rarely used as to be almost a nonword. I first encountered the word data over 25 years ago (when I studied data processing in school) and in that time I don't believe I've ever heard the word datum used as its singular or heard data used with a plural verb. I've seen it written with a plural verb many times, but this is the result of the house rules of various publishers.

Datum, by the way, is also a technical word used in surveying and mechanical engineering. It's plural is datums.

And to contribute to the words without a singluar: folks.

Annie-Xmas
08-17-2000, 05:36 PM
And to contribute to the words without a singluar: folks.
[/B][/QUOTE]

There's the Irish folk.

Mr. Blue Sky
08-17-2000, 06:02 PM
Clothes are weird, cuz then you've got underwear which has no plural.

How about "drawers"?

Polycarp
08-17-2000, 06:09 PM
Since Alphagene flagged "cattle" which was my first thought when I saw the thread title, I must pick on his choices...

While the list of things to be acted upon is the most common use for "agenda" the word still maintains a precarious usage as the collective "things to be acted upon" that are on the list, and as such is a plural with the singular agendum..."item on the agenda" in the more common meaning of the word.

Wood Thrush
08-17-2000, 06:27 PM
Species is the same in both sngular and plural. Group it in the same category as [i]fish[i].

A specie is a coin!

dtilque
08-18-2000, 12:03 AM
Originally posted by Annie-Xmas

And to contribute to the words without a singluar: folks.


There's the Irish folk. [/B]
Isn't that also plural?

I dunno. The dictionary says it's singular, but I'm having a hard time thinking of a usage where folk refers to a single person. (And please, no one bring up "folk singer", that's an adjective.)

Chronos
08-18-2000, 12:24 AM
Yes, "folk" is singular. It doesn't refer to a single person, but to a single group of people. For instance, I might say that the Irish are a fun-loving folk, or I might say that the Irish and the Dutch are fun-loving folks. It's one of those collective nouns I mentioned earlier.

dtilque
08-18-2000, 12:43 AM
Originally posted by Chronos
Yes, "folk" is singular. It doesn't refer to a single person, but to a single group of people. For instance, I might say that the Irish are a fun-loving folk, or I might say that the Irish and the Dutch are fun-loving folks. It's one of those collective nouns I mentioned earlier.
OK, but that's a different usage than what I was originally thinking of. When I talk about my folks, I mean my parents. But if I'm just talking about one of them, I can't refer to him/her as my folk.

08-18-2000, 03:47 AM
Whoosh.

Welcome to the board, ed.

Name's not ed, but nice ta meetcha anyways, connery...er...conman...whatever...

Is smegma singular or plural or does it even matter? Wait, I can answer that last part...

KenP
08-18-2000, 06:30 AM
Congratulations

GuanoLad
08-18-2000, 09:13 AM
An opposing thought...

There's no plural for Phoenix.

b-dum - tish!

barbitu8
08-18-2000, 09:33 AM
Fish can be a plural, but fishes is also a plural, and it is used when you have various species of fish together, or is that "various species of fishes"?

ThreeLeggedBob
08-18-2000, 02:18 PM
Scissors.

notquitekarpov
08-18-2000, 02:30 PM
In Texas I understand there is "y'all" of which the plural is remarkably "all y'all".

I'll now return to my hole....

Smeghead
08-18-2000, 07:56 PM
Originally posted by E d'Mann
smegma singular or plural or does it even matter? Wait, I can answer that last part...
[/B]

I'm single. :D

Ringo
08-18-2000, 07:59 PM
In the case of data, though, while it has an English singular, it's so rarely used as to be almost a nonword. I first encountered the word data over 25 years ago (when I studied data processing in school) and in that time I don't believe I've ever heard the word datum used as its singular or heard data used with a plural verb. I've seen it written with a plural verb many times, but this is the result of the house rules of various publishers.

FWIW, I live with the word "data" on a daily basis and am surrounded by its use. In my experience it is treated as a plural. And I see and hear the singular "datum" used as well. I will note, though, that my dictionary has a parenthetical note: (often construed as singular).

matt_mcl
08-18-2000, 08:17 PM
Originally posted by GuanoLad
An opposing thought...

There's no plural for Phoenix.

b-dum - tish!


Phoenices.

Also, the plural of sphinx is sphinges.

dtilque
08-18-2000, 08:17 PM
Originally posted by beatle
FWIW, I live with the word "data" on a daily basis and am surrounded by its use. In my experience it is treated as a plural. And I see and hear the singular "datum" used as well. I will note, though, that my dictionary has a parenthetical note: (often construed as singular).
Let me guess. Are you a scientist?

The Ryan
08-18-2000, 08:18 PM
Originally posted by lee
debris
Seeing as how the "s" is silent, I think that is a singular noun.

GuanoLad
08-18-2000, 10:30 PM
Originally posted by matt_mcl
Originally posted by GuanoLad
An opposing thought...

There's no plural for Phoenix.

b-dum - tish!


Phoenices.

Also, the plural of sphinx is sphinges.

Thanks for missing the point.

Ringo
08-18-2000, 10:37 PM
By definition, there is only one of the mythical bird Phoenix. Now if somebody goes and names a car or something "Phoenix"...

CalMeacham
08-18-2000, 11:13 PM
If the plural of index is indices, does that make the plural of ibex ibices?


Here's a for--real weird plural. I used to think that he plural of octopus was "octopi", until someone who actually worked with the eight-tentacled beasts told me the plural is really "octopodes" or "octopuses". I looked t up in the Oxford English dictionary, and it's true. "octopus isn't second declension, but fourth declension irregular.

In a similar vein, a friend tried to stump me by asking the plural of "opus". Again, it isn't wha you'd think ("opi"?). But I new the right answer this time -- it's "opera". And now you know where THAT came from.

Ringo
08-18-2000, 11:42 PM
Opus/opera...that one will stay with me; that was good, Cal, thanks.

The Ryan
08-19-2000, 02:43 AM
Here's another stumper:
The word "wrought" is past tense of another English word. Which one?
And one that's (hopefully) a bit easier: what's the present tense of "sought"?

08-19-2000, 02:54 AM
I'm (educated) guessing wreak and seek.

08-19-2000, 02:59 AM
Oh, and while we're off the subject...

When you say "It is raining," what noun does the pronoun "it" replace?

Fear Itself
08-19-2000, 04:11 AM
Series. As in The World Series. Can there be only one serie? sery?

08-19-2000, 04:37 AM
Originally posted by Smeghead

Originally posted by E d'Mann
Is smegma singular or plural or does it even matter? Wait, I can answer that last part...
I'm single.
Single is nice. Female and single is nicer. Female and single and in the DFW area is nicer still.

Hey, I can hope, can't I? (Don't answer that!)

douglips
08-19-2000, 11:59 AM
Originally posted by The Ryan
Here's another stumper:
The word "wrought" is past tense of another English word. Which one?
And one that's (hopefully) a bit easier: what's the present tense of "sought"?

"wrought" is past tense for "work".
Example: wrought iron. You don't wreak the iron, you work it.

The Ryan
08-19-2000, 12:26 PM
Originally posted by E d'Mann
Oh, and while we're off the subject...

When you say "It is raining," what noun does the pronoun "it" replace?
Probably "the weather", although it would depend on the context.

08-19-2000, 01:31 PM
One is said to have "wrought" vengence. I don't work vengence, I wreak it.

Perhaps those who use "wrought" this way are wroung--although, I think God wrought some in the Bible

Guinevere
08-20-2000, 07:46 AM
Ever tried to write and not use sexist lanuage? You can't say "he" when talking generally, and "he/she" is a pain, but there is no good alternative.

dtilque
08-20-2000, 11:07 PM
Originally posted by E d'Mann
When you say "It is raining," what noun does the pronoun "it" replace?
Nothing. This is a case where the requirements of grammar overrule semantics. The sentence requires a subject, even though semantically all that's important is the verb. So we put in it as a placeholder subject. French does the same thing, but since there is no neutral gender in French, they use the masculine pronoun.

Spectre of Pithecanthropus
08-22-2000, 06:04 PM
Originally posted by BrothaTJ
Start going into clothing, pants, jeans...how about trousers? Can you have A trouser? Clothes are weird, cuz then you've got underwear which has no plural.
I've noticed for about 10 years add copywriters often refer to "a jean" or "a pant". Sounds really funny, though.

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